In case you haven’t heard, the Los Angeles Dodgers have inked lefty ace Clayton Kershaw to a massive seven-year, $215 million contract extension. If you want to read more details on the extension and why it was a good idea for the Dodgers to give the truck loads of money to Kershaw, check out Isaac Comelli’s article.
I’m not focusing on this massive deal from the Dodgers’ perspective; I’m going to take a look at this from the eyes of the small market team — specifically the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are several other small market teams that are probably still pinching themselves to see if this deal is real or not, but I am a Pirates writer, so it makes sense to use them as an example.
The first jaw-dropping stat that comes from this Kershaw mega-deal is that he will be making more in 2014 than the entire Pirates’ starting rotation. The Pirates’ rotation will make just $23.5 million combined next season while Kershaw will make a hefty $31 million.
Want another crazy nugget of information? The Dodgers currently have six pitchers in line to make up their five-man rotation, and those six pitchers will make $103.75 million in 2014. The Pirates’ entire team may barely crack $80 million in total payroll. The Pirates’ most expensive pitcher next season will be lefty Wandy Rodriguez, making $13 million, but the Houston Astros will be paying $5.5 million of that, so the Pirates are only on the hook for $7.5 million. The Dodgers’ cheapest starting pitcher is Hyun-Jin Ryu, and he will be making $6 million, just $1.5 million less than what the Pirates’ most expensive pitcher will make.
The large market vs. small market budget problems aren’t new, obviously, but they seem to be getting more problematic recently with these extremely large contracts being given out. The Pirates showed in 2013 that it is very possible to compete with a low budget — or at least low compared to the Dodgers — but low budget teams can’t make the mistakes that large budget teams can make.
For the Pirates to compete, they need to have an entire 40-man roster of players that are able to contribute in some way to the MLB team when they are called upon due to injury or some other matter. The Dodgers are able to put elite talent at the top of their roster, leaving much more room for error on the rest of their team. Teams like the Pirates just need to continue to draft well and be smart on the international market so when the time comes for the likes of Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez to hit free agency they will have a decent option to replace them when they leave for money the Pirates simply can’t afford to spend. It’s a tough world for small market teams right now, and there doesn’t appear to be any relief in sight.